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Okla. National Guard assisting firefighters on wildfires

By Sgt. Bradley Cooney | 145th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment | April 18, 2018

MOORELAND, Okla. – Oklahoma's historic wildfire conditions led to fires spreading fast and firefighters scrambling to extinguish the blazes and mitigate the damage.

As the high winds and dry conditions continued, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management requested support from the Oklahoma National Guard to help augment local firefighters in containing and snuffing out fires. Nearly 400,000 acres have burned so far.

“We have provided air wildfire suppression over the last few days,” said Col. Hiram Tabler, director of military support for the Oklahoma National Guard. “We've used Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters to support those efforts.”

For the first time, the Oklahoma National Guard is also assisting the firefighters on the ground with the transportation of water through the use of an Army water supply tank called a “hippo.”

“We haven't done this mission before,” Tabler said. “It's the first time we've partnered with forestry and the emergency management office to really get ground forces [for] support.”

Coordination for and providing ground support using the hippo is a new operation for Oklahoma Guard members.

“We've pushed some of our hippo water trailers out to support some of the fire task forces out of the Mooreland area,” Tabler said. “They're carrying water to the task forces to support the fire trucks that don't hold as much water as the hippos do.”

As of Sunday, the hippos have delivered nearly 9,000 gallons of water to fire line brush pumpers and continue to work around the clock.

“We've heard great things about supporting the effort there,” Tabler said. “They're able to fight the fires quicker than they have in the past.”

Since 8 a.m. on Monday, the Oklahoma National Guard has provided more than 32,000 gallons of water for firefighters fighting wild fires near Taloga, Oklahoma.

Black Hawk helicopters remain on standby in multiple locations and are ready to support the fire suppression mission if called on.

Also, a large wildland fire that originated in Colorado and crossed into Kansas late Tuesday evening, affecting Stanton and Morton Counties, was contained overnight. Multiple structures were impacted by the fire and damage assessment by local authorities will be done today in those counties. Wallace County also reported a large fire that started Tuesday night and has been contained.

UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the Nebraska National Guard were requested via the Emergency Management Assistance Compact and arrived in Kansas on Wednesday. They're remaining on standby to assist with aerial fire suppression, due to the expectation of a high fire danger on Wednesday.

Local firefighters were assisted by crews from multiple surrounding Kansas and Colorado counties. UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the Nebraska National Guard were expected to arrive later.

The Kansas National Guard contributed to this story